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Get a Room, Part II: Advanced Priceline Bidding Strategy

My first Priceline bidding tutorial gave you a couple of key cheats to master the system: how to tell which hotels you’re bidding on, understanding which zones/star levels to select, and a general strategy of deciding how much to bid. But you’re still left bidding just once every two hours, which gets old.

Now you’re ready for the big guns. Yes, it comes in spreadsheet form. But it’s EASY, and it helps you bid more quickly. It’s the Priceline Rapid Rebid Strategy (I just made that up, but it sounds good). I’ll give you an easy method and free tools for maximizing your bids and getting the best possible hotel in your desired region. At the end, you’ll find a downloadable copy of my master Priceline spreadsheet to do with as you please.

Understand that Priceline will let you bid as often as you want — you just have to widen your bid parameters. You can’t keep bidding on a 4-star in Times Square. You’d have to go down to 3.5-stars, or maybe add a second zone. Or third zone. Or fourth.

Don’t lower your standards. Intelligently adding zones is the key to maximizing your bids.

You don’t need to go down in star level just because your bid on a 4-star was rejected. There’s a precise way of changing your bid to get an immediate opportunity to rebid without actually changing the set of hotels that you’re bidding on. Want that 4-star in Times Square, but your first bid was rejected? No need to lower your standards or wait two hours to try again. Just up your bid by a dollar and add Coney Island to your existing bid. There aren’t any 4-star hotels working with Priceline in Coney Island, so it is impossible to get a 4-star to accept your bid in that zone. It’s a “non-matching zone” for your star level. If your “4-star in Times Square OR Coney Island” bid is accepted, it will be for a hotel in Times Square.

Confused? Let me show you the screenshots.

Again, we’ll use New York City as our example. Let’s start back at Priceline. After you enter your desired travel details, you’re presented with a screen that shows you all of the “zones” available in that region. In New York City, there are 21:

Priceline NYC Zone Map

For #RWA15, we’re looking at Times Square Theatre District, so let’s say we want to stay in that zone. After selecting the Times Square Theatre District zone, the various hotel quality options (“star levels”) become visible below the map, as shown in this screen shot:

 

Priceline Star Level Options

As you can see, the Times Square Theatre District offers all eight star levels. Compare that with the star levels available in Coney Island:

Coney Island Priceline Star Levels

You couldn’t win anything above a 2-star in Coney Island. (I love the Coney Islands of the Priceline world. They’re very helpful.) It’s a “non-matching zone” for any bid above a 2-star. That gets you one “free” rebid, but only one. There are plenty more.

What are the star levels offered in each New York City zone?

I went through the zones and noted which zones offer which star levels on my spreadsheet. Here’s a screenshot:

NYC Priceline Hotels Star Level Offered

The Times Square Theatre District is highlighted in pink; our target star level is in red. Think of this as our target bid, our “X.” A “#” in a cell indicates that the zone offers that star level. A grayed-out cell indicates that the zone doesn’t offer that star level. It’s a visual cue — select your star level and scan that column for the grays. The more grays, the more bids you get, for the grays are your non-matching zones.

(Not all zones offered the lowest star levels, but that doesn’t impact the bidding process unless you want a 2-star — and if so, you wouldn’t be using this strategy anyway. What matters is how HIGH of a star level each zone offers.)

If you want a 4-star in the Times Square Theatre District, scan up and down the 4-star column to find the zones that do not offer 4-stars: Coney Island, Greenpoint – Williamsburg, and Morningside Heights – Harlem. You can safely add those zones to your target bid without the chance of actually winning a hotel in those zones. They don’t match for a 4-star. They are your “non-matching zones” for the purposes of this trial bid on a 4-star in Times Square Theatre District.

The three non-matching zones are each labeled sequentially A, B, and C on the spreadsheet. This labeling is very important to get right, as the master bidding sheet refers to them by letter. Always double-check that a “non-matching zone” hasn’t changed its star level offerings since you last checked. It’s tedious, but necessary. (If Coney Island adds a 4-star overnight, you’re screwed.)

What’s the best bidding strategy to maximize “non-matching” zones?

You must know how to permute the zones. MATH, dudes. Or have a friend with a spreadsheet. 😉

Below is a screenshot of my master spreadsheet showing the bidding strategy for a target has three non-matching zones.

Priceline Bidding Strategy Rebids

I’ll walk you through these eight bids.

  1. For Bid #1, “ONLY X,” make your bid on your targeted zone and star level, which in this case is a 4-star in Times Square Theatre District. Think of this bid as your target — “Bid X.” Note what you bid under “Bid History.” (I bid $50 on 5/13 on Bid X, for example.)
  2. For Bid #2, “ADD A,” add non-matching zone A, which in this case is Coney Island, to your previous bid via the “rebid screen.” (After a bid is rejected, Priceline gives you the option of rebidding if you can widen a parameter of your current bid. We call this the “rebid screen.” You are not allowed to delete a zone or move up in star level. You can only change your dates, add a zone, or decrease your desired star level.) This bid can be thought of as “XA.”
  3. For Bid #3, “ADD B,” return to Priceline’s main page and begin a wholly new bid. Enter your desired travel dates and your target zone/star level “X” (Times Square Theatre District, 4-star). Then add non-matching zone B, which in this case is Greenpoint – Williamsburg. You must not rebid via the rebid screen! You will not be allowed to delete non-matching zone A, Coney Island, from your previous bid, and if you just re-bid, you’ll lose the chance to bid only on your target zone and non-matching zone B. This bid is “XB.” I bid $70.
  4. For Bid #4, add non-matching zone A, Coney Island, to your previous bid via the rebid screen. This bid is “XBA.” I bid $80 (and paused there).
  5. For Bid #5, ” ADD C,” begin a new bid. Enter your desired travel dates and your target zone/star level “X” (Times Square Theatre District, 4-star). Then add non-matching zone C, which in this case is Morningside Heights – Harlem. This bid is “XC”.
  6. For Bid #6, add non-matching zone A, Coney Island, to your previous bid via the rebid screen. This bid is “XCA.”
  7. For Bid #7, begin a new bid. Enter your desired travel dates and your target zone/star level “X” (Times Square Theatre District, 4-star). Then add non-matching zone B, Greenpoint – Williamsburg, and non-matching zone C, Morningside Heights – Harlem. This bid is “XBC.”
  8. For Bid #8, add non-matching zone A, Coney Island, to your previous bid via the rebid screen. This bid is “XBCA.”

Hopefully, you see the pattern! I think of each zone as a letter, which makes it easier. Times Square Theatre District is “X.” Coney Island becomes “A”, and is the only one ever added in the rebid screen. Then I can think about XA, XB, and XBA instead of all those zone names.

The more non-matching zones you can find, the more bids you get per bidding period.

If you wanted to try for a 4.5-star in Times Square Theatre District, for example, you’d have eleven non-matching zones and hundreds of bids at your disposal for every two-hour bidding period…far more than most people would need. My spreadsheet has a bidding strategy that goes up to “G,” which is seven non-matching zones and 128 bids per period. I’ve never needed more than that, not even in the old days when Priceline only let you bid once every 72 hours. Always restart with Bid #1 — your basic “X” bid — every fresh bidding period.

Now, you are prepared to download a copy of my Priceline Rapid Rebidding Strategy spreadsheet and know what you’re looking at.

<click here to download> Priceline Rapid Rebid Strategy

You’ll need to edit it for your own purposes, of course. But this is your copy. Delete the NYC-specific information and you’ll have a master blank you can use in any city. Copy-and-paste the master blank into a new tab each time you need to research, add each region’s zones, fill in the star levels, and soon you’ll have a whole bidding book all ready to go.

CAUTIONS:

  1. ALWAYS RECHECK YOUR NON-MATCHING ZONES. Be sure they are still non-matching. The last time I went to New York, there were only fourteen zones, and no zone offered more than a 4-star! Things have obviously changed a great deal, and I bet somebody made a bidding mistake on the days that Priceline added those new star levels and zones. Never assume that Coney Island didn’t build a 4-star overnight. Priceline will give you no warnings!
  2. NEVER ACCEPT A PRICELINE COUNTER-OFFER. Priceline wants you to pay more than bottom-dollar for your travel. When you are getting close to an acceptance with your bids, they’ll often flash you a “counter-offer” that they say is a “one-time offer”. That just means you’re getting close to an acceptance. Stick to your bidding strategy. Ignore the counter-offer. (Well, I note it on my spreadsheet. But I don’t accept it.)
  3. NEVER ACCEPT PRICELINE’S OFFER TO REBID AT THEIR SUGGESTED PRICE. Priceline often gives you a screen that says something like, “If you’d like to increase your previous offer by $25, you can place another bid right now.” Don’t do it! Think of it as a counter-offer. You’re just getting close. Keep bidding!

If you make a mistake, call Priceline and plead stupidity. It’s worked for me!

And lastly, if you DO bid, leave a comment here and let me know how it panned out for you.

ANY QUESTIONS? Any experiences with Priceline bidding you’d like to share? Big wins, big busts?

 

16 responses to “Get a Room, Part II: Advanced Priceline Bidding Strategy”

  1. Just wanted to thank you for the fabulous information!!

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  2. Tamara Hogan says:

    Math? MATH!!! 😉 It was my understanding there would be no math.

    Bookmarking both parts of this blog. Great information, Jamie!

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  3. Leslie says:

    Priceline seemed daunting to me until your terrific tutorial. I followed your advice and scored a multi-night stay for our anniversary trip this summer at over $100/night savings! WooHoo! So when you feel your ears burning this summer, its from me and my hubby toasting you using all the extra cash for extra pampering (methinks you should be getting a bottle of wine out of this deal too) Many thanks.

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    • Leslie, darn it, your comment is actually bringing tears to my eyes. I cannot express quite how happy I am to hear that you used my post to save so much money! Wow. WOW! And here I was thinking that this Priceline stuff wouldn’t be of much use to our audience.

      ENJOY YOUR TRIP!

      1+
  4. Wonderful info, Jamie. I’ve tried using Priceline a few times before but it never worked out. Way more knowledgeable now.

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  5. Liz Talley says:

    Wow, I’m so impressed. I’m already in a hotel, but I almost wish I were a last minute gal and could try this. I’ll bookmark this for the next time I travel and want to snag hotels. Awesome research. Thanks for sharing!

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    • It’s really fun to save money on travel! Priceline combines gambling with travel planning. I really do love the seconds between hitting “bid now!” and seeing if a hotel accepts your bid.

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  6. Amanda Brice says:

    Bookmarking this for later. AMAZING tutorial!

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